Singles -- especially men -- are increasingly turning to pets for love and a sense of family, according to a survey from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Pets are still most likely to be owned by families, but pet ownership by singles -- including both those who have never married and those who are divorced or separated -- jumped 16.6% from 46.9% in 2006 to 54.7% in 2011. By comparison, pet ownership by families grew only 1.37%.
Pet ownership is up, especially among people who are divorced, widowed or separated. The group saw a 17.7% increase from 2006 to 2011. Pet ownership by single men is also on the rise, up 27.7% during that time period.
The survey, U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook 2012, also indicates that singles are more likely to regard pets as members of the family rather than companions or property.
“It’s interesting to see that more and more single people are discovering the comfort and satisfaction that owning a pet can offer,” says Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the AVMA, in a release. “Pets are powerful, positive influences on our lives, offering unique emotional, psychological and physical health benefits to their owners.”
Despite these positive trends, people aren’t bringing their pets in to the veterinarian as often as they should, Dr. Aspros says.
In 2011, 25.5% of pet-owning households didn’t visit the veterinarian at all, according to the AVMA -- an increase of 14.3% from 2006 to 2011. This reduction in care suggests that more animals are going without annual examinations and treatments to prevent common health problems.
“That trend is worrisome, not only in terms of the pet’s health but in terms of public health,” he says. “Families -- no matter what size -- need to bring their pets into the veterinarian, at least once a year, to maintain optimal health.”
The Sourcebook indicates that between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of households that made no trips at all to the veterinarian increased by 8% for dog owners and a staggering 24% for cat owners.
Overall, about 81% of dog-owning households made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, while only 55.1% of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian that year.
The AVMA, founded in 1863, has more than 84,000 member veterinarians worldwide. The U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook offers information on pet ownership, pet owner profiles, trends, veterinary medical use and expenditures.